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Derrck Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Chapel Hill players try to rally the team in the top of the seventh in Thursday's 1-0 loss to Stephens County in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

Mickey Harper refuses to let one loss tarnish the entire season for his Chapel Hill softball team.

Harper reflected on several positives during a post game interview after his team was eliminated in the Class AAAA playoffs on Thursday evening.

The Panthers lost 1-0 to Stephens County in Game 3 of its best-of-three series to end the season a game short of reaching the Elite Eight for a fourth straight year.

“It stinks to lose,” Harper said. “The way that I’m going to look at it is all the positives we did this season. I can’t hang my hat on one loss. It is the end of our season but these young ladies did so many wonderful things.

“These women that put on that Panther uniform are an unbelievable ground with a lot of class and character. They have represented us well. I’m proud of them.”

The Panthers, who won Game 1 on Wednesday, could only muster three hits on Thursday against Stephens County pitcher Emma Whitfield.

The junior had five strikeouts and scored the game’s only run with a second inning solo home run.

“I’ll take the blame for that,” Harper said. “If I had to do over again, I would call a different pitch. Emma pitched a great game. She is a great player. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other team. She wasn’t playing against any shabby players. She did good against some great players.”

Chapel Hill pitcher Kira Morgan, also a junior, gave up only three hits and had three strikeouts. The Panthers left three hitters on base during Thursday’s contest.

“We fought hard all season, and we fought hard today,” Chapel Hill junior outfielder Ivory Jones said. “We feel really bad for the seniors.”

Shortstop Savanna Sikes and outfielder Kenedy Hagan are the only two seniors on the team.

“This really sucks not to go back to Columbus,” Hagan said. “We could have done a couple things better.”

Chapel Hill entered the series on Wednesday on a 14-game winning streak. The Panthers won the first contest with Sikes getting a home run and added two RBI.

Stephens County won the next two to take the series. This was the first time since early September that the Panthers have lost consecutive games.

“Looking at were we started the season until now, I’m really proud of the way we fought,” Hagan said. “It took a lot of heart for this team to get to this point.”

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